Romans 9

Paul’s desire for all Israel to be saved, God’s sovereign choice

and

Israel’s pursuit of righteousness through law.

 

Romans 9:1-5

I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. 5To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

What is the relationship of the nation of Israel to this “glorification” (Romans 8:30) and followers of Christ being “more than conquerors?” (Romans 8:37).  One can nearly hear the sorrow in Paul’s voice and see the tears running down his cheeks as he says, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).  And they were so blessed!  God had given them at least eight special blessings that should have led them to salvation (Romans 9:4-5):

ü         Adoption (see Exodus 4:22)

ü         Glory (see Exodus 40:34)

ü         Covenants (see Deuteronomy 29:1-12 and 4:13-14

ü         Law (see Romans 7:12)

ü         Worship = The Temple Worship

ü         Promises (see Ephesians 2:12)

ü         The patriarchs (see Romans 11:28)

ü         Christ (see Matthew 1:1-17)

Romans 9:6-13

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." 8This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9For this is what the promise said: "About this time next year I will return and Sarah shall have a son." 10And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of his call— 12she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Surely these blessings would be enough to save them, wouldn’t they?  Paul makes a point that all Israelites would understand:  “It is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise” (Romans 9:8).   Every Israelite could tell you that not all of Abraham’s children were part of the promise.  This honor fell to Isaac’s descendants and not to Ishmael’s (Romans 9:7; see Genesis 15, 16, and 17).  Not even all of Isaac’s descendents were chosen.  Jacob, one of Isaac’s children was chosen, but Esau was not (Romans 9:10-13; see Genesis 25, 26 and 27).

Romans 9:14-18

What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

The question of justice then arises, “Isn’t God being unjust if He chooses whom he will accept?”  (Romans 9:14).  The answer to this question is “By no means!”  (For the power of this phrase, see notes on Romans 6:2.)  God has told His people, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Romans 9:15).  This is to say that God has the right, as Creator, to set His own standards of mercy and compassion.  As an example of this, Pharaoh was raised up for a specific purpose, “…that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth”  (Romans 9:17).

Romans 9:19-29

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25As indeed he says in Hosea,

"Those who were not my people I will call 'my people,'

and her who was not beloved I will call 'beloved.' "

26"And in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,'

there they will be called 'sons of the living God.' "

27And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay." 29And as Isaiah predicted,

"If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,

we would have been like Sodom

and become like Gomorrah."

The question is, “Why does God have the right to decide where mercy will and will not be shown?”  The answer is found in knowing who is the potter and who is the clay!  (Romans 9:20-21).  One must understand that God is the potter and thus, the decision maker, about how he will use his creation.  God has been patient with the Israelite nation (Jews) because He was “…desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power”  (Romans 9:22-23).  He was preparing for a time in which He would be calling people, both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 9:24).  Remember, it was “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).

The fact that God would call the Gentiles to be a part of his people should not have been a surprise.  The Jewish prophets had stated that this would happen.  Hosea had said in Hosea 2:23, “those who were not my people, I will call ‘my people.’”  He also said “the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God’” (Hosea 1:10).  Isaiah had warned, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved” (Romans 9:27; compare Isaiah 10:22).  He predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah” (Romans 9:29; compare Isaiah 1:9).  These are a few examples from many Old Testament passages that would remind those familiar with them that God had larger plans than just the Israelite nation.

Romans 9:30-33

What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written,

"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame."

What does this show to anyone who takes the time to study it?  Simply, what has been said before: “the Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith”  (Romans 9:30; see Romans 1:18-32 and compare Romans 1:16-17) and “that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law” (Romans 9:31; see Romans 2:1-29 and compare Romans 1:16-17).  This was “because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works” (Romans 9:32).

The result of their pursuit of law as a means to righteousness was that the Jews stumbled over “the stumbling stone” (Romans 9:32).  This was predicted by Isaiah in Isaiah 28:16 and the Psalmist in Psalm 118:22-23.  Jesus applied this description to Himself in Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10-11, and Luke 20:17.  Peter applies it to Jesus in Acts 4:11 and in 1 Peter 2:4-8.

 

Review Questions:

 

1.     How should have the eight special blessings received by the Israelites led them to salvation?

 

2.     God used a process of narrowing down children from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to show the Israelite nation that not all, even if related by the flesh would receive the promise.  Why was this important?

 

3.     How does the molder/molded and potter/clay illustration (Romans 9:20-21) help one understand God’s sovereignty?

 

4.     Was the idea that Gentiles would be a part of God’s people something that was planned for in the Old Testament or just an afterthought?  Give scripture references for your answer.

 

5.     Who was “the stumbling stone” of the Jews?

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